Residents present their views on Iron Gates DA to judge at onsite court

About 80 people were at the outside court next to the Iron Gates entrance at Evans Head.

Susanna Freymark

The court at Iron Gates Drive had no walls and the judge wore a suit and cap instead of a wig and robes.

Evans Head residents took turns to stand and give their opinions on the development application for the site.

Chief judge of the Land and Environment Court Brian Preston was there to listen.

Five residents made verbal submissions to the court this morning, Monday, June 3.

Elaine Saunders spoke first.

She appealed to the judge’s commonsense.

”This site floods,” Ms Saunders said.

”We were all here and with respect — you were not. It was a traumatic event and we are not over it, we are still living through it.”

Ms Saunders lives nearby and she also talked about how she was evacuated in a bushfire.

”Is this a safe place for 500—600 people to live?”

There is only one road in and out of the proposed Iron Gates site. The 1km stretch of road presents accessibility issues during disasters.

Ms Saunders asked a question many residents were asking — “Is this a new DA?”

Richard Gates asked the same question. At the Northern Regional Planning Panel session at Evans Head on September 18 last year, the presiding judge refused the DA, he said.

”Every single aspect of the DA has changed since the original submission 10 years ago,” Dr Gates said.

Dr Gates has been against development at the Iron Gates site for decades.

”I have knowledge of this site since 1955 when the owner was a chicken farmer,” he said.

He spoke about the noise from the Defence Force’s low flying aircraft affecting potential residents at the site.

Tim Smith spoke to the court about the impact on the seaside village.

”There are no amenities in Evans Head to support this DA,” he said.

Mr Smith said residents at the Iron Gates housing development would not be able to walk to town as it was too far and and there could be an extra 800 cars looking for parking in town where parking was already tight.

George Henderson said he put in a submission against Iron Gates 20 years ago. And here he was today, filled with nerves, he said, putting forward his disapproval of the DA again.

His concern was the pollution and degradation of the Evans River as the proposed housing development is close to the river.

”Evans River is the biggest economic driver of the town,” Mr Henderson said.

He cited Reflections Holiday Park, owned by the State Government, where “they advertise the crystal clear waters of Evans River.”

Protest materials on Iron Gates Drive, Evans Head. Photos: Susanna Freymark

Mr Henderson pointed out four threatened bird species that weren’t even listed on the DA, let alone plans to address protecting them as part of the development.

He mentioned the pied oystercatcher, the eastern curlew (critically endangered), Latham’s snipe and the beach stone-curlew.

Maria Mathes had her say about koala habitat and the importance of vegetation as koalas moved from Broadwater across to Evans Head.

After each resident spoke the crowd of about 80 people clapped — it was uncourt-like and spontaneous.

Once the five speakers were finished the judge, developer representatives and Richmond Valley Council representatives moved to the actual proposed housing site.

A man asked if the public were allowed to join the court in this viewing.

Because the developer who owned the land did not want people on the land, the public access was denied.

After today’s court and viewing, the Land and Environment Court will resume for two days in Ballina. Then the session moves to Sydney.

A decision on the Iron Gates DA is not expected until June 14.

Dr Gates and others against the development have been fighting this for so long, it is difficult to even imagine a resolution.

Dr Gates would like to see the council rezone the land to prevent houses ever being built on the environmentally sensitive land. Instead he has visions for a cultural and education centre.

Several speakers had mentioned the Aboriginal significance of the Iron Gates site. Ms Saunders said many middens had already been destroyed.

Read more about the Iron Gates DA here.

Read more about the proposal at the NSW Planning Portal here.

Note: Even though the court was held outside, the usual court rules applied which included not being allowed to record the court proceedings or take photos until afterwards.

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